Manitoba – Up in Flames (Domino)
Dan Snaith must have been keeping a close eye on Doves over the last year or so. The Manchester trio pulled an about-face with last year’s The Last Broadcast, ditching the dark Madchester sound of their debut along with most of the electronic elements and releasing an album of big, spacious, astral pop last summer. It turned a few heads and garnered much praise for the band.
Snaith himself emerged as a card-carrying IDM superstar, thanks to his debut Start Breaking My Heart. And now, a little under a year since Doves released Broadcast, Snaith (under guise Manitoba) releases Up in Flames, an album that seriously pays homage to the blissful, sunny, psychedelic pop of the sixties. Flames is an album that drenches you in layer after layer of positivity, using a broad range of instruments from the smiley-smile arsenal: glockenspiels, Farfisas, saxophones, flutes and a barrage of others.
The interesting twist to Up in Flames though, is that the sound isn’t a total 180 from Snaith’s previous work. There are still moments, such as the breakdown on “Jacknuggeted,” where digital overtakes analog. Most of the songs don’t have lyrics and none follow traditional pop structures. The melodies and instrumentation scream pop and everything else screams IDM. It’s this tug-of-war between the two genres that makes for such a compelling listen.
Not following traditional structures allows Snaith to fill the songs with all of the special moments normal pop songs deliver with a planned attack. The payoff here is that you never have to wait for the big chorus to arrive—the ten songs on Up in Flames have one right after the other, each as special as the last.
The two standout tracks are “Bijoux” and “Skunks,” the former swirling with music boxes and horns and breaking into big percussive phrases, and the latter cycling between a simple guitar melody and frogs and passages with an acoustic drum kit keeping time and dueling horns and flutes each trying to outdo each other for space in the mix.
With Up in Flames, Snaith has unleashed a serious contender for album of the year. Recommended for sunny days, driving with the windows down.
MP3s and streams available on Manitoba’s audio page.